Crossing the Doctor — Gathering Your Pebbles


So you chose a narrow field of inquiry on which to cross-examine the State’s expert, and you gathered a list of journal articles that might relate to the narrow field of inquiry. What next?

Find a good medical library. Any medical school should have a a library that has most of the publications we’ll be looking for; if you don’t live anywhere near a medical school or the school doesn’t have a good collection of journals, there are services that permit you to order the articles over the internet. There are two disadvantages to doing so: first, it’s expensive; and second, you’re not likely to get the articles in the exact form that will be most useful on cross-examination.

Before going to the library, you may be able to get a good idea of what they do and don’t have by looking at their online catalog. Here, for example, is the Texas Medical Center Library catalog. While you’re at it, do a search for the general topic of the doctor’s practice so that you know where to find the textbooks on the subject (for example, pediatrics in the WS 100s). Remembering that you’re not going to become an expert on the doctor’s broad field, you may find that the textbooks provide some ammunition in addition to that contained in the journal articles. Also, you may need to refer to a basic text to put some of the concepts in the articles into context. (A certain measure of scientific and technical curiosity, along with the appropriate dictionary, is vital to the process of cross-examining an expert witness.)

When you get to the library, scope out the copier situation. If you have to buy a copier card, do that before you start gathering your articles. You don’t want to get a pile of books in your arms only to discover that you don’t have the currency required to shoot copies.

You’ll have some articles that, judging from their abstracts, are must-reads and you’ll have some that are merely possibilities. Skim the latter at the library; some you’ll be able to discard. If you’re not certain whether something is helpful, shoot a copy of it.

When you copy an article, make a copy of the journal’s cover, a copy of the table of contents page, and a copy of the entire article itself. The journal’s cover will be vital to the first part of your cross-examination of the doctor; thus a downloaded copy of the article will be less useful than a photocopy from the library.

While you’re there, skim the textbooks on the general subject. If they contain sections that cover your narrow field of inquiry, shoot copies of them as well (the cover of the textbook, the copyright page showing the publication date, the table of contents page showing the section you want, and that section).

Coming soon: what do I do with all of these copies?

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